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Making the most out of one acre

by EMILY BONSANT
Hagadone News Network | March 3, 2022 1:00 AM

BONNERS FERRY — The Gliddens didn’t plan to create a homestead on one acre, but that is what their hobby farming has turned into in pursuit of making the most out of what they could afford.

The Glidden family moved from coastal Alaska where they were unable to garden due to the Alaskan climate. Once they settled in Boundary County, they decided they would do the most with the resources they had on hand. After much house hunting and putting out offers on several houses, they settled on one acre with a fixer-upper home. What first attracted them to their home was the mature trees on the one acre, they said.

“I get distracted by the trees. I’m the Lorax,” said Kimber Glidden. “And my husband Gale has always wanted an orchard.”

They researched “holistic orchards” in order to map out the number of trees they could put on their property. Through the Montana Fruit Tree Company, which delivered trees to the Gliddens, they learned how to lay out an orchard.

“We planted 15 fruit trees. So with those resources, it's just looking at your land and really realizing what you can do with it. And you kind of have to ask yourself, 'Is this feasible?'” Kimber said.

The Gliddens were concerned about using the space they had effectively without adversely affecting the area around them.

“We have overused our resources as humans to a gross extent,” Kimber said.

The Gliddens take seriously utilizing and caring, doing the most out of the land they have been able to afford.

“What I can do is I can pay attention to my footprint, and I have one acre, that's what I could afford,” she said. “So it doesn't matter. You have one acre, you have a half acre. If you live in an apartment. You can only do what you can do.”

The Gliddens also raise bees. Bees go where there is food. Since the Gliddens can only grow so much on their one acre, their six hives will go to the tree farms and neighbors who have larger fields and orchards.

Their neighbors' crops benefited greatly from the Gliddens bees, and allowed them to have eight hives due to the food source around them.

The Gliddens do what they can to preserve water by not having a lawn, which hogs water, and instead planted a small orchard and water it using the permaculture method, Kimber said. This retains water from the trees and produces food for the Gliddens, and their friends, neighbors and wildlife. They also raise their own meat, by way of chickens, ducks, rabbits and hogs.

“I can't call myself organic, but I know how it was raised,” she said.

Kimber said that she would like to raise a steer, but knows that is not advisable for her small plot. Instead the Gliddens raise four hogs at a time. In total, they have raised six hogs on one acre.

She said they have been able to raise so many animals because they have figured out how to lay out their property well to safely rotate animals. The Gliddens rotate their hogs locations on the property. Next year, they will take a break raising hogs. The following year they will raise the hogs on the other side of the property rotating them around the acre.

“I would tell people to really pay attention to how you lay your things out. Believe it or not, the first year I planted a garden, all of my garden rows went in a different direction than they do now,” Kimber said. “And the reason that I changed them […] is your garden hoses should run down the troughs of your rows, I ran all my rows going the other way. So the hose went across everything. So it would break off the stems of all the plants and stuff because I was dragging a hose across rows instead of down rows.”

“So all of these things, think about [ahead of time] and save yourself a little bit of work,” she said.

The Gliddens started with six Leghorn hens from a friend. Now they have 42 chickens.

“When you start farming, you start with chickens. When you start gardening, you start with tomatoes,” Kimber said. “Chickens are a gateway animal that makes you want to farm.”

“Chickens are a teaching tool on what it means to be a hobby farmer,” Kimber said. “They are very forgiving which is delightful when you're learning. Once you transfer to larger animals, there is a price of entry.”

Part of that price of entry is not only buying all the equipment necessary to keep larger animals, but the added time commitment.

“Whether it be vet bills, feed bills, knowledge, but when you start buying big animals, that's an investment,” she said.

Gale Glidden, Kimber’s husband, has knowledge and experiences with hogs from being the swine superintendent for 4-H at the North Idaho State Fair in Coeur d’Alene. In addition, their daughter has a degree in agriculture from Kansas State.

“Start with something you can learn. And is it something that you're going to want to dedicate your time to?” she said. “Because even with six chickens, you have requirements, they have to have food, water, bedding, do you want to be somebody who cleans out barns? What are your goals for that?”

Other things to think about is the logistics of who is going to watch the animals when you are away on trips, Kimber said. Do you have a place to keep them cool? Do you have a place to keep them warm? Do you have a place to keep them protected? You know, these are all things that is easy to learn from chickens. It's much more complicated. When you get into bigger animals.

Both Kimber and Gale work full time and so they understand their limitations if they branched out to larger animals or more needy animals such as goats or sheep. The Gliddens only raise hogs in the winter months, so they are able to enjoy the outdoors and fishing trips in the summer months.

In addition they raise ducks, rabbits and bees, but they didn’t do it overnight. They attributed their success by planning and planning well.

They started small first, by fencing in the property and then they took time to look over their one acre and getting to know the land. They considered the sun exposure, the soil, and the weather and climate on the property. These are questions the Gliddens suggest any landowner look into before starting to update the property.

It is hard to just observe your property before digging in, but it is necessary to plan and plan well, she said.

“The hardest part is living with your land and watching it for a while. That is one of the biggest challenges, especially when you're all gung-ho, and then you realize that thing will have to be moved, since it’s not going to thrive there,” she said.

Another thing to consider is your property full of bugs, Kimber said. She agreed with Joel Salatin, it’s not a slug problem, but a duck deficiency. Every animal has at least a dual purpose. Ducks and chickens provide meat and eggs, but ducks also take care of the bugs. The rabbits provide meat and cold manure for the garden.

As the Gliddens have gotten experience farming under their belts, they are moving to conservation breed chickens and ducks to help grow the populations and to provide a better meat option for their family.

There are so many resources available online or in books for hobby farmers. The Gliddens cautioned people to listen to experts' expertise, but that it is important to adapt advice to your particular piece of property.

“Even in one acre, I have several different climates,” Kimber said. “So I could have an expert come in and say, ‘this is what apple trees do.' Now I need to take that [expertise] and then I need to be able to make it a little bit flexible for apple trees on my property.”

When starting out, the Gliddens advised folks to be flexible, and not to be too hard on themselves. People need to remember to laugh at themselves and to not let the heartbreaking part of farm life get them down.

“You know, if you're going to get into animal husbandry, there is a calling involved in that,” Kimber said. “And if you're going to produce your own meat for your own consumption, you have to ask yourself, at what level? Are you going to get involved in that? Are you going to need somebody to come in and butcher or are you going to take your animals to somebody? Are you going to be responsible for that process yourself?

People also need to ask themselves about the time commitment involved and be realistic about how much they can do.

“How much can I do and still have self-care because that's really important,” she said. “And if you don't enjoy it, then you need to not do it or you need to scale back.”

The Gliddens said that they are fortunate enough to have an acre that they can lay out well, but they know not everyone has a large-enough space.

“If you have a small backyard and can only have three chickens and a garden, then have three chickens in a garden and love it. Love it, and enjoy it and know that you're doing the best you can with what you have. And now you're making a difference in your life and maybe you will mentor somebody and make a difference in their lives,” Kimber said.

If you would like to share your own story on self-sufficiency, homesteading, hobby farming, bee-keeping, off-grid housing and other agricultural related stories, contact staff writer Emily Bonsant at ebonsant@bonnercountydailybee.com.